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Part Qallunaaq
Chapter 29. Meeting Uncle Bill


In conversations with Uncle Bill and his wife, we mutually agreed that meeting sooner rather than later would be desirable all round. To this end, we all arranged to travel to Montreal, to spend a few days together.

Four brothers, their wives, and one sister and her husband, would travel from Puvirnituq to Montreal. My wife and I would fly in from Kangirsuk and join a sister who already works there to pre-position ourselves in Montreal on January 28, 2006, for the arrival of Uncle Bill and Jess on the following day, January 29. We planned to head home on Friday, February 3, so our time together would be short. But we were all eager to finally meet each other.

On the Big Day, family members from Puvirnituq were prevented from traveling by bad weather, and so missed the greeting of our uncle at the airport. However, my wife Jeannie, my sister Talasia and I were at the international arrivals area of Trudeau Airport in Dorval, along with Heiko Wittenborn, a photographer friend whom I had asked to take pictures of this historic meeting.

My nerves were on edge as seemingly unending throngs of passengers streamed out of the arrival area without any sign of Uncle Bill and Jess. But, eventually they appeared. We had exchanged photographs by Internet and mail, and all knew what we looked like, so appearances were no surprise for us.

From the time I saw definitive documents, which verified our Scottish roots at the Aberdeen Town Registry, I had been carrying unexpressed emotions related to the discovery. One of my concerns was the possibility of emotions getting the better of me. When I finally met Uncle Bill, I was amazed that the greeting turned out normal and joyous, as we shook hands and briefly embraced. When Uncle Bill gave me a few gentle pats on the back, I was placed in a state of what can be described in Inuktitut as saimatsianiq, “great genuine contentment”.

During the ride from the hotel to the airport, Uncle Bill told me that his father used to speak to him in Inuktitut. With the passage of many decades since those times, he could not easily recall all the words. But, he asked me to say the Inuktitut word for “sugar”. When I said, “mamaqsautik”, he exclaimed, “That’s it!” That’s the word!”, as he recognized the word his father used to call him. He also asked me to say the word for the number, “one”. When I said, “atausiq”, he let out another exclamation of recognition.

“Wow!”, I thought, “Code words in Inuktitut!” Here was a Scottish man, having just flown in from across the ocean, sharing something he could not possible be making up. What wonderful confirmation of a connection, which had been outstanding for close to 80 years!


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